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Earth Science

Earth In the Midst of Sixth Mass Extinction: the 'Anthropocene Defaunation' 342

mspohr writes: A special issue of Science magazine devoted to 'Vanishing Fauna' publishes a series of articles about the man-caused extinction of species and the implications for ecosystems and the climate. Quoting: "During the Pleistocene epoch, only tens of thousands of years ago, our planet supported large, spectacular animals. Mammoths, terror birds, giant tortoises, and saber-toothed cats, as well as many less familiar species such as giant ground sloths (some of which reached 7 meters in height) and glyptodonts (which resembled car-sized armadillos), roamed freely. Since then, however, the number and diversity of animal species on Earth have consistently and steadily declined. Today we are left with a relatively depauperate fauna, and we continue to lose animal species to extinction rapidly. Although some debate persists, most of the evidence suggests that humans were responsible for extinction of this Pleistocene fauna, and we continue to drive animal extinctions today through the destruction of wild lands, consumption of animals as a resource or a luxury, and persecution of species we see as threats or competitors." Unfortunately, most of the detail is behind a paywall, but the summary should be enough to get the point across.
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Earth In the Midst of Sixth Mass Extinction: the 'Anthropocene Defaunation'

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  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @11:13AM (#47531485) Journal
    They were delicious. And we were hungry. God did give them tooth and claw. Despite it they did not defend themselves. May be they wanted to be eaten.

    You may not agree with this statement. But shockingly there is a strain of political thought in America that applies exactly this principle to the human society and the poor people. And ironically those who profess these "maker vs taker" are shocked when they are told they are practicing social Darwinism.

  • Re:no problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pieroxy ( 222434 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @11:47AM (#47531791) Homepage

    Welcome, brother, grab a cowl and toss your razor in the bin on your right. Is it state the obvious Friday already, or is this just another opportunity for an argument about human impact on the climate?

    Nobody is citing climate change and all the animals they cite in TFS were extinct well before humanity is supposed to have had an impact on the planet's climate. So I guess it's the former if your two choices are the only ones I've got.

    But then again, I had no idea we were supposedly responsible for the extinction of mammoth.

  • Re:no problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @11:59AM (#47531895)

    Very true. A few years ago I was tutoring at a community college and actually met a man who didn't realize the Earth went around the sun. At first I assumed he was pulling my leg, how could an American in this day an age not know that?!? But he was fascinated by the idea, and we had a long conversation about the basics of orbital mechanics and how they shape tides, the seasons, etc.

  • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @12:17PM (#47532085)

    I imagine it's closer to "Invasive species are a danger to the entire ecosystem, including, eventually, themselves." When dealing with such the usual solutions are extermination (generally ineffective), or introducing a predator capable of keeping them in check without further destabilizing the ecosystem. Assuming we wish to do neither, nor suffer global ecosystem collapse, it would behoove us to start learning to co-exist with our ecosystem rather than strip-mining it.

    And it's not like that is some sort of knee-jerk hippie "let's all live in mud huts" bullshit. As one example consider the gradually increasing numbers of oceanic "wildlife preserves" where all fishing and other destructive exploitation is banned - Not only does the protected area begin returning to pre-exploitation lushness, but so do the surrounding waters. Fishing yields around the protected zone reverse the global trend and begin to increase dramatically, greatly benefiting even the fishermen who were initially opposed to banning fishing in the richest waters. Given half a chance nature can be extremely bountiful, we just need to give the ecosystems a chance to stay healthy rather than maximizing short-term profits at the expense of long-term desertification.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @12:18PM (#47532101) Homepage

    I'm not convinced people in mud huts were numerous enough or destructive enough to manage the megafauna extinctions. A lot of this hysterical screaming about how we're destroying the planet seems a lot like hubris.

    On certain level, the idea that we have that much power pleases the egos of some people.

  • by NatasRevol ( 731260 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @12:34PM (#47532279) Journal

    Here's a snapshot.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @02:31PM (#47533403) Journal

    In historic times humans hunted e.g. for horses.
    They drove them over cliffs with fire and shouting and hunting.
    A band of perhaps 40 adults, 20 or 25 of them male/hunters drove 100ds of horses, a whole herd over a cliff ...
    Because panicked horses follow the ones in front of them.
    How many of those 100 horses did they eat? 1? 2? ... 4?

    Europe is full with stone age slaughterhouses where Horses, Mamoth or what ever kind of huntable animal you want to name where killed in absurd numbers.

    I saw a documentory about a certain place somewhere in modern Poland where humans met (many tribes, like a jambouree) over a period of roughly 40,000 years, likely each year in local 'summer'. There is a site where the layer of bones of hunted animals, eaten, not only killed somewhere, only those they actually butchered and ate, the layer is over ten meter thick.

    The layer is over ten meter thick after 15,000 years of decomposting. And that is only the junk yard of the bones of the animals that actually got butchered and eaten.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?